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Rangers: The Saga That Never Ends

Ibrox/Rangers

This Rangers versus the taxman saga seems to never go away. Yesterday an upper tier judge dismissed an appeal from ‘Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) against the ruling from the first-tier trial against the use of EBT’s from the old company that ran Rangers.

We have no real victors in this case. It can be spun in so many ways that all sides can claim some small wins in their favour. Basically some mistakes were made at Rangers and those mistakes were compounded by the HMRC with their own mistakes and their reluctance to judge certain costs/fines properly.

The whole debacle pushed ‘Oldco’ Rangers very close to precipice. But lets face it, it wasn’t the sole reason why they were on that edge in the first place.

Sir David Murray was reckless in his spending and he didn’t see the world financial meltdown coming. His overzealous spending at Rangers and his fall out with the bank, cannot be viewed as smart business acumen.

Obviously it was Craig Whyte’s tenure that threw the club off the cliff with its administration and then eventual liquidation. Whyte knew exactly what he was doing, so I for one will never call him a scapegoat. His using ‘Peter to pay Paul’ methods were always going to come back and bite Rangers on the backside. I’m totally bewildered by his actions and goading HMRC with the small tax bill and PAYE  going unpaid. The whole deal just shone a bright light onto Whyte and his dodgy business dealings, so was it worth it Mr Whyte?

Had HMRC done a deal or at least wanted more realistic fines, like the courts have since suggested, then Rangers would have been a better business opportunity for potential new owners who wanted to run the club in a viable way with the existing company.

Should HMRC have taken the matter to court?

Of course. They won with certain provisos. If they believe that wrongdoing has taken place and that they can win a court case, then they should be free to challenge any company. But for me, the only way a company like HMRC can run is without any bias. For example, they either do deals or they don’t. They made public statements during the Rangers case saying ‘We don’t do deals’ but alas there seems to be evidence to the contrary regarding Vodafone and Goldman Sachs.

I do question the £134m figure that seemed to be easily banded about as the figure that Rangers would owe after the tax case. That figure is closer to £20m plus the £18m the club owed to the bank. That would have been a debt of around £38m, easier to manage and deal with in the right hands.

Talk has it that HMRC are now contemplating appealing yet another court decision based on this particular case. What does this say about the revenues and customs office? The business is now dead and gone. Yet they continue to throw good taxpayers money down the drain as they can’t persuade a number of judges that they are 100% in the right. One appeal is enough, anything more when it’s at the cost of the taxpayer is just as reckless as Murray was during his Gers stint. Accept what the judges have said and let it go.

What about the Rangers support?

Some commentators have written diatribes about the Rangers fans being at fault for not calling out David Murray sooner. Ack hindsight is a wonderful thing and lets not forget Murray’s regime didn’t always use EBT’s.

When certain Gers fans were questioning Murray, in 2002, when the club hit a debt of £80m, the man himself was worth an estimated £300m that same year and was worth over £700m by 2008 according to the Times rich-list. Also lets not forget that their was never any football debt during his tenure until after Whyte took over. So with those facts, who would have questioned Murray too much and with what reason? He did fail to cover any potential bill and interest on the EBT’s but how many football fans know that much about such big financial matters?

The same people/writers that blame the Gers support would have walked on to the fields of France in November the 12th 1918 and said ‘you probably shouldn’t have started shooting each other’ as dead bodies that lay at their feet. Their comments deflecting blame at the Rangers fans and saying ‘you should have done more’ are pointless and irrelevant. All they want is website hits, an argument or to say ‘nah nah’. Its gloating at its lowest form in my opinion.

Should the Rangers fans try and take HMRC to court? Not for me. It is yet another pointless and potentially costly exercise. You cannot undo history. Yes I don’t blame the fans but the business its self was still toxic, proven by David Murray’s reluctance to take on the responsibility of the tax case and sell the club on to someone who truly believed in Rangers as a growing concern.

They should seek answers and ask why HMRC decided to to keep going on and on with the course and come up with the £134m figure. But don’t hold your breathe waiting for an answer.

Did the press help with the downfall?

Well some could have done better when commentating on the tax cases, I feel a few were slightly biased. But it was also a hard case to call as it involved sports reporting and financial reporting, the two don’t often mix well especially when you add the legalities of it all. The clamour to credit a certain ‘blog’ that seemed to know too much about the case, isn’t the media’s finest hour. But in Scotland the media have to walk a thin line between two tribes and whatever you say will usually make one of those tribes angry and upset.

The SFA aren’t blameless either, they rubber stamped the Whyte takeover without much investigation and then fine the club for his failings. That isn’t in the best interests of Scottish football.

The whole vicious circle always comes back to Sir David Murray though. He is the one that Rangers fans should want to hear from the most. He was unwilling to take on the full responsibilities of his actions, hence not accepting the accountability of the tax cases. For me, Murray knew what Craig Whyte was all about but the fact is he really just wanted to hand over the burden of pulling the plug on the life support machine, Murray’s pride wouldn’t let him do it.

But in truth, the best thing for all involved is to move on and learn from the mistakes, that they’ve all made. The fans should never allow owners to work without questioning every move. I have always called for one fans voice, there is still too many unions and fan bodies. I think fan ownership could work at Ibrox but only when the fans learn to trust each other.

The media can and should evaluate how they covered the story and learn not to trust certain anonymous sources.

HMRC should learn to respect the judgement of the courts and stop fighting every single decision.

Hopefully this is my last article on the subject.

The End Of The Brazilian Dream

Brazil

“I certainly didn’t envisage or want to write the following angry, sad and blunt blog post. I’m not entirely sure that everything has sunk in yet to be quite honest.”

As a Scot, it always makes sense to pick a go to team when it comes to World Cups, especially in this era when Scotland simply don’t qualify for the bigger tournaments. My go to team? Well it’s Brazil.

I love they yellow jerseys, the flair, the samba beat and the smiles. Last night all they had was the yellow shirts. I don’t think a game/performance has affected me as much as Brazil’s yesterday. They were humiliated, they self destructed and were a complete and utter shambles. I don’t know why I hated watching the Brazilians being dismantled so much but I did. Maybe it’s because I adored everything about Brazil for so long.

The most passion we saw from ‘A Selecao’ came during the national anthem. Symbolically Julio Cesar and David Luiz held up Neymar’s shirt before the game, but that empty yellow shirt still had more soul in it than any of the players that would go on and ‘play’ for the next ninety minutes.

Brazil were also missing their captain Thiago Silva. The armband was handed to David Luiz and the only captain he resembled was that of one deserting a sinking ship at sea. He was bullied at the corner that led to the first goal and he gave goalscorer Thomas Muller all the time and space needed to score a tap in after just eleven minutes! The defender then made mistake after mistake. Missing the ball completely, making dodgy pass-backs and going into challenges as if he was a piece of melting butter! He was full of apologies and tears at the end but the twenty-seven year old was committed enough on the pitch. Good luck to PSG who now need to console their new £50m signing and get his career back on track. I don’t think his mental scar will leave him easily. His smile could be forever broken.

Quite a few of these players may never get the chance to represent their nation again after this tournament. Julio Cesar, Jo, Maicon, Dani Alves, Dante and Fernandinho will struggle to be selected again, if the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) decide to do a complete overhaul. Hulk, Marcelo and Paulinho will also struggle to get the fans back onside after their horrific showings too.

I do have sympathy for the players. The pressure on them was extraordinary. Last night it all just became too much and they went into free-fall. But that doesn’t excuse the lack of desire, creativity or the complete and utter disregard to do the basics. Their style last night resembled that of a game in the park between the worst lot of three year olds taking on ten year olds.

Make no mistake this game was a catastrophe for the host nation. That loss was by far the heaviest defeat in the country’s World Cup history.

Luis Felipe Scolari will have to come out and take a lot of responsibility for this dramatic ending. At the moment he has stated it was just terrible luck and that the team ‘blanked out’. Listen it goes deeper than that. Brazil were decent at this tournament but they were far from special and they certainly showed no flair, skills or excitement (expect for Neymar in spells). The squad was full of average players. How Hulk and Fred got so much game time is beyond me. They showed little in terms of creative spark, willing smart runs or even goals. The pool relied far too heavily on Neymar and Thiago Silva.

Make no mistake the Germans were superb and humbled their foes. They were clinical, had great work ethic and a desire that outshone their rivals tenfold. At times I was was screaming at my TV set begging that Germany showed some mercy. But alas the Brazilian’s didn’t deserve any merciful act as they continued to flood forward, hit hopeful yet hopeless shots and miss easy passes in their own half. They were almost goading the German side to score more and more.

Congrats to Miroslav Klose who is now the World Cups best ever marksmen, poetically beating Ronaldo’s record against Brazil.

This Brazil team are far from being an inexperienced bunch. Seven of the players that played last night have Champions League winners medals in their trophy cabinets. The coach won the World Cup back in 2002. The average age for this squad was twenty-eight, not thirty-three or twenty-one. Yet they still crumbled when they needed their experience most.

The fact is Brazil have flattered to deceive for quite some time now and have lived off past glories for far too long now. To be honest it helped them with their quarter final victory over Colombia. But that illusion will have been totally shattered now. The nation need to rebuild and get back to their own style of football.

It took twenty-four years between Brazil’s 1970 World Cup win and their 1994 triumph. It’s now been twelve years since their last victory at the world’s grandest stage. At this rate it seems kind to suggest that they’ll win the golden trophy again in the next twelve years.

God knows how a real Brazilian fan feels today if I am this upset and angry! At least with Scotland the expectation is no longer there.

The South Americans need to forget about their past triumphs and rebuild now for a better future.

Cole Should Become A Serie A Sensation

A.Cole

Let me start off by stating I’m not a huge fan of Ashley Cole’s behaviour off the park or what I’ve read about it to be exact. But as a footballer I think he’s a terrific left-back and I really think he’ll do well at AS Roma next season.

He might be thirty-three now but the player still does well getting up and down the left flank. Only a few years ago we all would have put Cole in our top three left-backs in the world. He’s a defender that works well with the forwards that play in front of him, offering reassurance with his tracking back and tackling. He also constantly offers runs that go beyond the forwards giving them an outlet down the line.

For whatever reason, Jose Mourinho decided Ashley Cole was surplus to requirements at Chelsea. I really can’t see it being down to performance as the player could never be called a liability whilst at Stamford Bridge. Although Cesar Azpilicueta had a fine season filling in at left back I can’t say he was better than Cole at his peak. Maybe Mourinho wanted to change things up a bit or perhaps Cole’s off the pitch scandals caught up with him in London.

But I don’t see why a move to the Italian capital can’t revitalise the former Arsenal man. Serie A is less frantic the the English Premier League and that could suit the veteran down to the ground. At Roma, Cole will work under Rudi Garcia. The French coach shows his veteran players plenty of respect and gives them a lot of responsibility in his teams. Last season, Garcia gave ageing full back Maicon a new lease of life and that helped secure the right back a slot in Brazil’s World Cup squad.

A bonus for Roma is that they’ll be getting a world renowned winner. During his career in England, Cole won over ten major trophies including three Premier League titles and a Champions League winners medal. Individually he has also won plenty of awards and plaudits, getting into various team of the year sides. Another big plus is that Cole has now retired from international football, which means he should be fresh for more Serie A matches and the Champions League ties.

Ashley has always been a very consistent performer, usually playing above average both for club and country in all competitions. I’d go as far as to say he was probably the most consistent performer for England during the ‘Golden Generation’ era. He is also a prolific performer too. During his eight seasons at Chelsea he only represented the ‘Blues’ less than forty times twice. Plus lets not forget he represented his nation 107 times. In fact I think he was missed by England during this summers World Cup. Against Italy, Leighton Baines was often left terribly exposed, Cole is a better defender in my opinion and his extra experience could have helped his teammates too.

As long as Ashely Cole joins ‘I Giallorossi‘ with a good attitude and determined to prove himself in Italy, then I just can’t see him not enjoying his spell in Serie A. The only person in my eyes that can hinder Cole during his stay in the eternal city is Cole himself and his potentially poor attitude. But I have my fingers crossed that he can become another successful Brit abroad!

Alexis Sanchez: Why He’d Be A Hit In EPL For Arsenal Or Liverpool

Alexis_Sanchez

Chilean star-man Alexis Sanchez is a wanted man and I can see what all the fuss is about. Liverpool and Arsenal have been battling it out with Juventus for the Barcelona forwards signature. If one of the English Premier League (EPL) teams gets their man, then I believe they’ll be getting a player that could light up the Premier League next season.

The twenty-five year old would be ideally suited to both Arsenal and Liverpool. Although at this time the Emirates looks to be the most likely destination.

Although he can slot in on either flank, which would mean that he could play up top with another striker (Giroud or Sturridge), he would be best suited through the centre. His versatility and fluidity in the forward areas would be great for either Liverpool or Arsenal as he’d fit in easily with those clubs footballing philosophies.

Last term in La Liga, he managed to grab nineteen goals in twenty seven starts plus he was also credited with ten assists. Now who would argue with those stats?

The player should also join his new team, hungry and determined to prove himself as a top star. At Barcelona, he always played second fiddle to Lionel Messi and then third fiddle when Neymar arrived at the Camp Nou. Sanchez never let himself or Barca down when he played but never seemed to get the plaudits he deserved or the attention that other Barca stars received. Now is the time for Alexis to prove that he is more than capable of being the true star of a big club.

I’m not a Johnny come lately to the Sanchez party. Yes he had an fantastic World Cup with Chile, scoring two and creating another in the four games  in Brazil. But I remember the Alexis Sanchez from 2009-10 at Udinese. Young, raw and exciting. He would get the ball and attack the Serie A defences. Then he would turn up to the 2010 World Cup and announce to the world that he was ready for the big stage, grabbing three goals. At Udinese he’d often play as a creative number ten, who would be given a lot of freedom on the park.

I loved watching his performances whilst he was at Udinese. He was such a star and could change games with his dynamic running, incisive passing and his instinctive finishing. I was obviously not the only one to have noticed his qualities as Barca then bought him for £25m.

Right from the start I was against the Chilean maestro joining the Catalan giants. I sensed he would be under-appreciated and not get too many chances to shine in the middle. The way in which Barcelona have treated him this summer, almost pushing him out the door, proves they didn’t really need the skilful attacker.

For Liverpool, they’d be getting a player, who I believe could take over from Luis Suarez. His skills and forceful runs, plus his keen eye for an assist as well as a goal would remind the Anfield crowd of their former Uruguayan hero. I think he actually offers more. Then there is the fact that he won’t offer the same toxic issues that Suarez has brought to Liverpool.

At Arsenal, they’d be getting a number nine that has dramatic pace that can get in behind defences. His great runs would be a delight for Mesut Ozil who would supply him with so many cute through balls.

It looks like Sanchez himself might prefer a move to the ‘Gunners’ over Liverpool. I’d imagine Arsenal’s style, the fact that they have such a consistent run in the Champions League and Arsene Wenger would be big pluses for the hitman. Plus lets face it London is a huge draw for anyone. But at Liverpool he’d be virtually guaranteed hero status on his arrival.

Both should be very wary of Juventus. They are a huge European club and the player knows the Italian game well. But they’d need to move quickly to steal a march on the English sides and also need to offer him top money.

But if either EPL side can complete the purchase of Alexis Sanchez, then they’d be getting a mix of Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero and I seriously believe and hope he’d have the same impact in terms of goals! He’ll be worth it, even at £32m.

Putting My Money On Les Bleus For Euro 2016

FFF

France departed from this years World Cup at the Quarter Final stage without as much as a whimper. They struggled to breakdown Germany, who were telling with their added experience. But for me, the French side and the nation as a whole, can take heart from their overall World Cup performance.

They impressed enough for me to suggest that they can look forward to hosting the Euros in 2016 and being one of the favourites for that title.

Why?

Well their youth teams in recent years have impressed, winning the U20 World Cup last summer and finishing runners-up in the Toulon tournament this year.

If you look at the French squad that impressed in Brazil you’ll notice the majority of that squad are in their mid or early twenties. Only Mickael Landreau and Patrice Evra will be 35 or older come 2016.

Landreau was the French third choice goalkeeper and really was given a place in the squad due to his personality as much as his ability. Number one Hugo Lloris was superb and will only be twenty-nine in 2016. France have Marseille’s Steve Mandanda to come back from injury and a few talented goalies coming through the ranks too like PSG’s Alphonse Areola, Toulouse keeper Zacharie Boucher and Monaco man Paul Nardi.

As for Patrice Evra’s left-back spot. It looks like Lucas Digne is being groomed for that position. The twenty year old excelled in last summers U20 World Cup after establishing himself at Lille the season before. He would then join PSG in a deal worth around €15m. His first season at the Parc des Princes was an adjustment for the talent youngster as he was used in rotation with Maxwell. But when he played he impressed with his bursts forward, his crossing and his concentration at the back. The energetic full-back still has improvements to make in his game but Didier Deschamps brought him to the World Cup and gave him the full ninety minutes against Ecuador in the group stages. In the next two years Digne should be one of the brightest left backs in the world and in the Les Bleus squad for the 2016 Euros.

The French defence was strong with consistent defenders like Laurent Koscielny and Mamadou Sahko partnering pacey and composed centre back Raphael Varane. The Real Madrid defender oozes class and for me will soon be seen as the best central defender in the world. He was bullied by Mats Hummels when the Germans scored the winner in the quarter final match in Rio. But the twenty-one year old will only learn from that and come back stronger. It’ll also be interesting to see where Porto’s Eliaquim Mangala ends up by 2016 with Manchester City linked with a bid of £3om+ this preseason.

The midfield trio of Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi and Moussa Sissoko can all leave Brazil with their heads held high. They ran their collective socks off, were strong and helped both the attack and the defence with their endeavour. But it’s Paul Pogba that’s seen as the next big French midfield maestro. He is another one that went from winning the U20 World Cup to playing in the World Cup in the space of a year. He didn’t look out of place in Brazil, although he does need to watch for wind-up merchants and keep his temper in check. He isn’t scared of the ball or demanding it from teammates. He can drive forward with it, create chances and score goals. The twenty-one year old is also very good in the air. The multi-time Serie A winner already has fifteen caps for Les Bleus and scoring three times, including one at the World Cup against Nigeria. By 2016 he could be one of the world’s biggest footballing stars!

Out on the flanks Antoine Griezmann and Mathieu Valbuena had good tournaments. Remy Cabella could be soon on the move to a bigger club and be pushing for more caps. World class wingman Frank Ribery can also come back from injury and help the young squad with his vital experience.

A major problem for the French seems to be finding a consistent number nine. Karim Benzema, Oliver Giroud and Loic Remy can all be world beaters on their day but they need to have their day more often. On the plus side for all them is that by 2016 they should all be hitting their peaks. But Remy needs to find a new club and the other two have to start having more influential moments with their clubs as well as the national team.

Plus lets not forget that Didier Deschamps has been there and won all the major international and clubs trophies going. At forty-five now, he will be key in helping this young pool of players flourish. He can hand down personal experiences of what its like winning a major international trophy on home soil and has proven this summer he will put the squads harmony ahead of selfish yet talented egos.

I have obviously mentioned quite a few talented stars who’ll have improved by the exposure of this World Cup and will now focus heavily on their own Euros, hoping to make it to the final in Paris on the 10th of July 2016.

But there are plenty more talented players out there that I’ve not mentioned like Morgan Schneiderlin, Kurt Zouma, Clement Grenier, Maxime Gonalons, Dimitri Payet, Etienne Capoue, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Joshua Guilavogui, Alexandre Lacazette, Andre Pierre Gignac, Florian Thauvin, Aymeric Laporte, Mathieu Debuchy, Paul-Georges Ntep, Yassine Benzia, Benjamin Mendy, Adrien Rabiot and M’Baye Niang. Some of those are young raw stars and some are a bit more experienced that may come in a do a job. Some will simply be seen as not being good enough by Deschamps and his coaching team, whilst others will be blooded into the pool in time for 2016. Also we will probably see a star that many of us haven’t heard of yet!

Obviously 2016 is still a long time away especially in the footballing world. By that time Spain will be back with a new generation of hungry stars, the Germans have quite a solid, youngish team too and maybe by the Euros Belgium will have learned how to play like a team and not as individuals. But I have to say if I were a betting man I’d certainly pick out France as my favourites. Didier Deschamps seems to be a good manager who understands the importance of youth plus experience and has worked out Les Bleus work better when the squad is united. The strength and depth of the squad is also very strong.

But don’t run out and put money on it, my predictions can be inconsistent to say the least. Although if I am right, I will definitely be shouting it from the rooftops hopefully in Paris!

Rangers Need Long Term Strategies

Gers

Now before I get started I’m not going to get into the debate in who should be running Rangers. I don’t have enough time to get into the boardroom politics. All I will say is if the current board can’t implement changes that benefit the club in the long term and cannot run the business in a viable, sustainable fashion then they should step aside. Also if anybody out there doesn’t have the club’s future at the forefront of their thoughts then they shouldn’t invest.

The culture of reckless business individuals and consortiums ruining football clubs should be a thing of the past for modern day football and we’ll have a much better footballing environment and society without them in our game.

Now lets get down to what is needed at Ibrox to improve the whole business and structure of the club.

Many people have been criticising ‘Gers’ manager Ally McCoist for buying a bunch of older veteran players, a few that have been at Ibrox before. It’s easy to mock and I can also see why people would be a bit annoyed. It shows a lack of imagination. But we also need to look at why it’s happened.

It’s quite simple. McCoist is bringing in players he knows and knows what they can do. He has no real scouting system or a chief scout the manager trusts. That’s something that should have been addressed when Rangers got rid of Neil Murray in the middle of 2013. Without a head scout and a network of scouts working underneath him then what chance do Rangers have to scout decent youth players on the continent, reserve sides down south or even a detailed knowledge of young Scottish players that aren’t in first teams yet? The management team can’t be given those extra tasks, coaches can’t always spot talent. Plus you can’t just rely on Youtube or DVDs. The club also need to hold more trials and look at players close up. They have no transfer budget, so free transfers are the way to go and you need to be better informed about these talents.

The club also need to look at their academy and how Murray Park is run. They need to develop more talented youngsters and youths that are capable of getting into the first team more regularly. In Lewis McLeod, Fraser Aird, Calum Gallagher, Barrie McKay and Robbie Crawford Rangers have a good group of talented youngsters but they really should have a bigger crop that are knocking down the managers door to get a chance in the top team. McCoist also needs to make sure that they still get game time in the Championship and that the club don’t focus everything on the older pros.

Look at clubs like the big three in Portugal. They all have great scouting networks and superb bases in developing youth talent. Those are things Rangers, Hibs and Hearts should be looking at bringing into their own clubs. Even at Celtic, they can still improve, especially with the transition from youth squads to the first team.

Rangers Chief Executive Graham Wallace has told of the need for Rangers to bring in a new football operations officer. Basically its like a sporting director or a director of football but under a different name. The role would see the officer look at identifying player talent, scouting and recruitment strategy. People in Scotland and the UK as a whole don’t usually trust the role of sporting director/director of football/football operations officer. Mainly due to the fact that teams in the Britain have failed to implement the system properly. A lot of the public and the British managers suspect that the new directors want too much power and really want to pick the team and get rid of the coaches.

But look at Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG and most other successful continental sides. They all have strong sporting directors who look after all the business sides of things that managers/head coaches shouldn’t be wasting time on. They bring in the new players (in positions the manager needs), they deal with the scouts and the heads of the academies and make sure the whole club is working in the right direction.

It’s believed that Christian Nerlinger is frontrunner for the new role. He seems like the ideal candidate. He was a former Gers player, he has studied international business and also held the role as general manager at Bayern Munich. It should be noted that Nerlinger has always been more interested in the background business side of football rather than becoming a coach, so that should help alleviate any suspicions Ally has of Nerlinger being after his job.

But like most things at Ibrox these days, the appointment of a new football operations officer is taking too long!

Everyone at Rangers needs to work together. That is the sticking point. No one at the club seems to be going in the same direction. There are various factions looking at taking over the club and controlling it their way. The fans are angered with the current board and season ticket sales seem to have slowed this preseason, money is needed without much investment forthcoming, McCoist seems in the dark about a new operations officer which suggests his relationship with Wallace could be stronger.

But maybe the only way it can work is when they start laying these long term foundations but without trust can they be successfully implemented? It could be yet another big catch 22 at Rangers.

Brazil Deserved Win… Now Lets Get On With It

Brazil

I know its always great to see nice and attractive football but sometimes football doesn’t always give us that. Sometimes to win, you have to get down and dirty.

People were up in arms that Brazil won last night. They caused too many fouls, they singled out James Rodriguez for some of harsh treatment and that the refereeing officials were biased towards the hosts.

To be honest, football fans love conspiracy theories but here is the truth the best team on the night won.

Brazil scored an early goal after seven minutes and that kind of killed the game a bit. Brazil aren’t the first to do this, Argentina did it against Bosnia & Herzegovina in their opening match. Football is all about results and win you reach the quarter-final stage of a World Cup you will do anything for victory. The football was still end to end but it was often stopped with fouls.

Brazil played to their squads strengths and minimised the strengths of the Colombians. Now that meant quite a bit of long balls and niggling fouls, and some of us aren’t used to that from ‘A Seleção’. Although the Brazilians have had teams like this in the past with varied success.

Every time the World Cup comes along the Brazil squad get compared to that of 1970. Its unfair and not very helpful. Different generations give you different personnel, styles, opponents and tactics. The game has evolved, whether we like it or not.

Now for all of you that have attacked Brazil for their performances, mainly last nights, what about Colombia?

I’ve loved watching ‘Los Cafeteros’ this summer. But last night they were off the boil. They couldn’t adapt their style to counter the Brazilian tactics. Juan Guillermo Cuadrado wasn’t the same player, making more mistakes and mistimed passes in last nights game than he has all tournament. The forwards didn’t do enough to pressurise the Brazilian defenders and they relied too much on James Rodriguez.

I said yesterday that the Colombian side had to get the occasion out of their heads and keep all focus on the game. But that didn’t happen, at times they were like rabbits caught in headlights. The defending at the corner for Brazil’s opening goal was awful and nearly non-existent. But you don’t hear many people talking about that.

The officials weren’t the best, more cards should have been shown and that should have happened sooner. That would have helped protect James and Neymar from wayward fouls. The Brazilian wall that didn’t adhere to the foam should have been punished further.

But here’s the thing. The main decisions were all spot on. The ref and his team were right when they cancelled out a Colombian goal for being offside, James did concede a free-kick which led to the second goal (although he shouldn’t have been booked) and it was a penalty for Colombia. Oh and whilst we discuss the penalty, the ref was right not to send off Julio Cesar as he wasn’t last man (David Luiz was covering), it wasn’t an obvious goalscoring opportunity (Colombian player would struggle to catch that ball) and it wasn’t a violent challenge.

Why are we not lauding David Luiz for his free-kick? It was a stunning goal, worthy of any World Cup match. To strike that with the inside of his foot and get the power, pace and movement was majestic. Yet because it was scored by ‘that clown’ Luiz it seems to be forgotten about.

Look at the stats. Yes Brazil did commit the most amount of fouls but they also had most possession, most shots, most shots on target and importantly scored two goals to the Colombia’s one.

As I’ve said the treatment on James Rodriguez was pretty harsh and it went beyond the line quite a few times. But the same can be said for Neymar, and not just in the Colombian game either. Some of the tackles on the Brazilian number ten this summer has been gruesome. The golden boy for his nation is now out of the World Cup with a broken bone in his back. Camilo Zuniga’s challenge wasn’t needed and it was very cynical. For those that questioned the ref, lets no forget that he didn’t give a free-kick or give out a card for that challenge.

I don’t blame Zuniga, it was a niggly game and the Brazilians dished out as much as they got. My issue is with the fans on twitter who were gloating about the injury, saying Neymar either deserved it or was faking. The player has a broken bone in his back for crying out loud. You can see it was a bad challenge and the twenty-two year old was in agony.

Getting back to the start, as I said, football is all about the end result. If Brazil win this competition, then Luiz Felipe Scolari will have achieved the ultimate goal, winning the World Cup in Brazil!

Of course it can happen, they are in the final four after all and for me no one has stood out at this tournament. But the next game will see Brazil take on Germany without Neymar and the suspended Thiago Silva, if they can overcome that challenge then they might meet their rivals Argentina in one hell of a final!

This has been a fantastic World Cup, let that continue all the way to July the thirteenth.

Colombia Need To Hold Nerve To Punish Brazil

World Cup

Colombia have been superb so far at this World Cup. Next up it’s Brazil.

Can the feisty, entertaining Colombians knock-out the hosts or will ‘A Seleção’ once again prevail and move closer to the holy grail?

Obviously we only have hours to wait before kick-off at Estadio Castelao.

But if ‘Los Cafeteros‘ stand any chance of going through to the semis then they will have to remain composed and play the match and not the occasion. They will be playing in front of a huge crowd, many baying for their blood and desperate to see them lose.

The squad also have to keep an close eye on Neymar. They certainly can’t let him charge at veteran defender Mario Yepes. The Brazilian number ten may be seen more on the right to exploit the space left-back Pablo Armero leaves behind him when he constantly ventures forward. That could leave the pacey and tricky forward one on one with 38 year old Yepes. Mario has had a terrific World Cup so far, his positional sense is great but he is very slow. Playing Neymar on the right or centre could be a great move for the Brazilians.

That said the Brazil’s other attackers have been pretty poor. Hulk and Oscar need to do more to help out Neymar, whilst the least said about Jo and Fred the better.

The suspension of Luiz Gustavo could be huge for the Colombian’s as he’s probably been Brazil’s second best player at the tournament. He is the one that adds discipline to the midfield. Both Fernandinho and Paulinho have so far been inconsistent at best but one of them needs to fill in the marshalling role and try and contain James Rodriguez. The Monaco maestro has been simply fantastic so far in 2014 and his ability to find space in the opposition half has been remarkable. So the Brazilian midfield need to close the gaps and think about defending instead of constantly charging into attack mode.

As I’ve previously mentioned the flanks can be very important. Both sides have talented wingmen and wing-backs who love going forward. In Juan Cuadrado, Colombia have a star who has so far provided more assists than anyone else at this World Cup, with four assists. As he operates on the right, that means Marcelo needs to think more about his defensive duties than he usually does. Give Cuadrado too much time and space and he’ll find that killer pass.

Brazilian centre-back duo David Luiz and captain Thiago Silva need to prove that they are indeed worth the praise they were given in the pre-tournament build up. So far they’ve been OK without being dominating. That needs to change against the Colombians!

Both teams have solid goalkeepers but both will have to be at their best as they get ready to face the biggest threats to their teams involvement at this summers event.

Against the Chileans, for too long Brazil sat back and let Chile have the ball. That was a dangerous tactic and could be fatal against Colombia who’ve so far brushed opponents aside with their clinical attacking play.

Colombia don’t have history on their side. This is the first time they’ve reached the quarter final stages of a World Cup, while Brazil have been at this round in the last six occasions. The hosts also have a very impressive record against their opponents winning 15 out of their last 25 ties, drawing 8 and with Colombia only coming out on top twice.

But if Rodriguez, Cuadrado and co really want to look into the past for inspiration then they should remember that the last time Brazil hosted a World Cup they were eventually eliminated by fellow South American opposition.

Again Colombia need to enter this match forgetting about the event and history (as much as possible). The side are in form and need to play their own game and try and attack the Brazilians from the get-go, stay disciplined and importantly take any chances that come their way.

Brazil will have a whole nation backing them and that has it’s own pressures, Colombia need to try and make that work to their own advantage.

Whatever happens tonight, I hope we see a fantastic spectacle, plenty of goals and the best team winning. Will that be the ‘dark horses’ Colombia? Only time will tell.

Great Google News Cover Up Or New Way To Tell Old News?

google

Google has had to inform quite a few news organisations that certain old news stories will no longer be found in Google’s search engine results. One particular story that seems to be high on the list of stories that are being taken off concerns Scottish football and a refereeing scandal that happened around four years ago.

It all surrounds the ‘right to be forgotten‘ ruling. The EU (European Union) ruling means Google must delete “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data from their results when a member of the public requests it.

Whether or not the subject of these articles on STV, Daily Record or the Guardian, was the individual who requested the removal remains unclear.

Now I am not a fan of the ruling. Who’s the person who decides on what is still relevant news? News obviously contains the word ‘new’ in it but old news is great in terms of research and a useful tool to learn from. The stories could also be precedents and might once again be relevant in a few years time when something similar happens again.

Look at our libraries and museums that collected every edition of local newspapers for decades, sometimes centuries. Those papers continue to help journalists, bloggers and historians. In this day and age we have the internet. King of finding our information is Google. Supposedly Google handles up to 90% of online searches in Europe. So I believe we shouldn’t censor that data unless those stories contain illegal or vicious material.

But it’s not all bad.

The ruling itself is very flawed. The subjects make a complaint and having searches taken off the web, Google then has to go to the news organisations and inform them of the decision. Really all that does, is make the story news again and relevant once more. The news sites then have a moan about the ruling, go over the original story once more and then end with a nice link to the original article once again. All this is done with plenty of mentions to Google, nothing wrong with plenty of free advertising. Oh and don’t forget that the new stories based on the old ‘forgotten’ ones will now appear on Google too.

The biggest flaw is that the ruling only concerns Google’s European search engines. Now when you go onto these pages, down on the bottom right hand side of the screen you’ll find a button linking you to Google.com where you can search for all those banned stories.

Now the EU have come out and have complained that Google have been reckless and accuse the large global internet company of ‘deliberately misinterpreting’ the ruling. They believe the reason for doing that is to start a political campaign and stir up a storm with the media. They’ve probably hit the nail on the head but that stems from the fact that the ruling was rubbish in the first place and a form of censorship, which in my opinion Europe doesn’t need.

I am not a fan of Google, especially when it comes to them paying (or not paying) certain taxes but on this issue I fully support them in their quest to share information whether it’s deemed relevant or not by EU bigwigs. Hopefully the European Union can see that they’ve scored a bit of an own goal here and can rectify it.

Five More Scots Who Could Develop Abroad

SFA

After Ryan Gauld’s big move to Sporting Lisbon this week I thought I’d see what other young Scots out there could interest European sides looking to bring in good Scottish talent.

As I’ve said on here many a time, I believe going to Portugal, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Holland or Belgium could really help our young players develop as long as they pick the right clubs. Going abroad, in my opinion, opens players eyes and gives them more experience. It adds to their skills and usually improves their technique. The players also start to think about tactics and the importance of training. For me, just being abroad and living a different culture will improve most players.

So here are five more potential Scottish stars who should look to the continent instead of England for their next moves.

Andrew Robertson (Dundee United):

Like Gauld, Robertson was fantastic for United last season. The left-back played so well during the league campaign that he was called up by Gordon Strachan, winning his first cap against Poland in March.

Strachan was full of praise stating…

“Andy came on there and the first time he picked it up he drove about 30 yards. I thought ‘that’s fantastic.”

Started his career with Queens Park and was a first team regular at eighteen. Was spotted by United boss Jackie McNamara and brought in last summer, he was immediately given a first team spot at Tannadice and didn’t look out of place in the Scottish Premiership. The full-back has pace, strong work ethic and likes getting forward. Also has a few goals to his name already. Robertson was Scotland’s young player of the year last term.

Would do well on the continent but I’d like to see him spend one more year under Jackie McNamara at Dundee Utd. Then after two seasons in the Scottish top flight go to say a mid table team abroad and develop even more, instead of jumping straight to the EPL. Seems like a player who is a fast learner and would adapt quite quickly to any situation.

Stevie May (St Johnstone): 

The young forward scored twenty-seven times in all competitions last season including an important brace in the Scottish Cup semi-final and one in Europe.

The talented marksman is composed inside the box and isn’t scared to have a crack form outside the area too. Seems to always be thinking about goals, nothing wrong with that for a striker. Has the pace and skill-set to beat a couple of players. More likely to take the shot with his right, but can hit it with his left if he has to. An instinctive finisher who links up well with those around him.

The twenty-one year old has recently been linked with Preston and QPR, but could do a job in Europe given the right opportunity.

Jason Holt (Hearts):

A very good creative midfielder. His sound technique really impressed former Hearts and Sporting boss Paulo Sergio, who believes Holt has what it takes to go to the top of the game. A very quick keen passer, who has fantastic awareness of who/whats around him

Has been brought through quickly at Tynecastle due to their financial troubles but could be better suited going to a team on the continent that would give him more freedom or be loaned to a smaller side in that country without the same pressure.

Not sure a year in the Scottish Championship would be beneficial for the energetic midfield maestro, unless Hearts start to become more creative and attacking. The Scottish Under 21 cap has been linked with Championship sides in the past.

Tony Watt (Celtic):

The Scottish striker burst onto the scene at Celtic Park when he scored the winner against Barcelona in the Champions League back in 2012. Last term he spent the season out on loan in Belgium, with Lierse. The twenty-year old managed to banged in nine strikes in seventeen games before a bust-up with Lierse’s manager Stanley Menzo.

His time in Belgium didn’t go unnoticed with Standard Liege who are now understood to be interested in bringing in the pacey forward on a permanent contract.

It really it all depends on whether or not Tony fits into new boss Ronny Deila’s plans. If he doesn’t then I’d suggest he goes back to Belgium or the Netherlands and develop there, rather than rot down in England somewhere. A good finisher but needs to settle down and realise what opportunities he has in front of him and not let his attitude stall his career.

Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United):

Another talented younger player that has impressed under McNamara at Tannadice. The gifted midfielder caught the eye of a lot of scouts during the last campaign with his consistent performances. He already has over 130 club appearances to his name and is Scotland’s under 21 captain.

The central midfield man also has a level head on his shoulders, he’s currently studying for a law degree at the Open University. He’s another Scot with big ambitions, having previously stated that he’d like the chance to emulate Scots players like Murdo MacLeod, Alan McInally and Paul Lamber by staring in the Bundesliga.

Armstrong doesn’t mind going forward, scoring fifteen times so far in his career.

Within a few months Jackie McNamara was convinced of Stuart’s qualities…

“He’s got considerable pace, good vision and a strong finish. He has another couple of years with us and I imagine it won’t be long before we see him in the national team.”

A player that Dundee United would be reluctant to sell, but if they’re offered the right price they would not stand in any players way.

So hopefully more Scots try their luck on foreign shores and impress. For me, that will have a huge impact on out football and really boost our leagues and national team.